Heart Sharing

A "tested" model for group communication

One of the articles in Art And Ceremony In Sustainable Culture (IC#5)
Originally published in Spring 1984 on page 47
Copyright (c)1984, 1997 by Context Institute

There are many variations on the basic (and powerful) idea of the "talking staff council" described in the interview with Elizabeth Cogburn. The following article gives the details of a variation that is well suited for small groups.

The U.V. Family is a team of people who travel and live in a motorhome that they designed and built (U. V. = ultimate vehicle). They all follow the financial independence program described by Joe Dominguez in the Summer 1983 issue of IN CONTEXT, so they are free to be of service to groups wherever they travel. They recently did a series of benefit seminars in Seattle for IN CONTEXT and for Duane Elgin’s Choosing Our Future and are planning to do another series for us in the San Francisco Bay Area.

IN 1969, FOUR OF US committed ourselves to discovering a "new road map" for reality, a new set of rules for the game of life. While others at that time were going off to India or back to the land, we chose to go within. For 15 months we isolated ourselves from Western culture. Using the tools at hand – bodies, minds, hearts, endless time and the endless space of a long, uninhabited beach – we explored our inner landscapes. Every thought, feeling, action was put in the spotlight and interrogated . . . was this true? beautiful? useful? essential? An integral part of this process was the fact that we were doing it together, knowing that synergy accelerates the process of growth. We chose to live unedited lives, to offer freely to each other the content of our consciousness as grist for the collective mill.

Out of this spirit, a communication ritual emerged that we did nightly for about 4 years and on a regular basis after that. Originally we called it "Cosmic Show and Tell." It served us wonderfully well for sorting out our relationships at the personality level, but the real gift of CS&T was the discovery within each of us of the ability to speak from another level of our being – from the Self, the essence.

Eventually, as we shared this ritual with others, it became right to change the name to "Heart Sharing" and to write up the list of what we’d found to be the essential agreements that assured a safe space for sharing. So, with love, we offer this ritual to you, with the caveat that the many friends who have "product tested" heart sharing have all told us that when they tried to take short-cuts or add more structure, the magic seemed to disappear.

Conditions And Agreements For Heart Sharing

Set aside a time when there is nothing else pending, and guarantee that there will be no interruption. Create a quiet, cozy space. Provide water. Create comfortable seating in a small circle. Have dim, pleasant lighting.

  • When the circle is complete and the doors closed, spend a few minutes in silent meditation, prayer, "quiet time," silent handholding, or some other form of group attunement. Have no body contact during the sharing, unless someone requests a reassuring hug or handhold.
  • When the spirit moves someone, they can announce the beginning of their sharing: "OK, I’ll share now," or some similar clear announcement. From that point on until that person announces "The End," the floor is his/hers and your total attention is given to the speaker. There should be no interruptions, comments, or manipulative fidgeting, yawning, breathcatching, etc. Listen intently with as much dedication as you’re capable of, without judgment, and with love.
  • There is no time limit to sharing.
  • When the speaker announces "The End" acknowledge her/his sharing with a simple "Thank you" no matter what the content of the sharing. Give no feedback, unless specifically requested – and then only in the most respectful way possible.
  • For those who believe they have "nothing to say," give 10 minutes of listening to their silence; meditate on them for this time, as you would on someone who is verbally sharing. It is fine to take a second or third turn to talk, as long as you announce it clearly and finish with "The End." Between heart sharing turns, keep conversation to a minimum, quiet, gentle. Silence is golden, and often stimulates someone to take a turn (if only to fill that silence!).
  • After everyone has had at least one turn, you might take a short break for refreshments – quietly, still in the circle. Maintain the spirit. End the session with a quiet, gentle, loving spirit. Cherish the gift each person had given – their inner selves.

While it is not part of the agreements, we strongly recommend that Heart Sharing sessions be tape recorded and that the group get together the next day or as soon as possible to listen to the tapes. Amazing discoveries and insights are available through this process.

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